Family members and friends of Omar Monroig, the 42-year-old man who died Sunday about a week after being struck in , will be mourning the loss of a loved one this weekend.
A wake is being held for Monroig at the Biondi Funeral Home in Nutley on Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. and a funeral is being held at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Newark on Saturday followed by burial at a cemetery in East Hanover.
Barbara Wheeler, 40, of Garfield, said Monroig grew up in Newark and that she shared many good memories with the man. The two had grown apart, but over the past five years had reconnected through social media websites.
"We really didn't think he was going to go. We really, really were positive that he was going to make it," she said.
While North Bergen police continue into who was responsible for the hit-and-run on Tonnelle Avenue, Wheeler said she and others are remembering their dear friend. Wheeler said that aside from Monroig's wife and 18-year-old son, bodybuilding was one of the biggest passions in his life.
Photos of Monroig in competitions are posted on Fitness RX for Men Magazine's website, documenting several years of competitive experience in the sport. Wheeler said he last competed in August, but was planning to compete again and was scheduled to do an appearance at Muscle Maker Grill on March 31, although he never made it.
Wheeler said Monroig was a friendly person with a good heart.
"He had a good aura. Any room he walked into, he made a friend," she said.
John Manochio, another friend of Monroig's, said Monroig was like a "teddy bear" and that despite his large size, he was a gentle person.
"Many people admired Omar because he was strong, not only physically, but mentally and all he wanted was peace and not drama between friends," he said.
"Omar was the kind of man that really appreciated everything he had. As big as Omar was, his heart was double the size. He was the most kind and gentle person you could ever meet. He was the glue that held the group together and he was the very first one to make peace with everybody if there was a problem, the very first to create a fundraiser as one of our friends passed away. If you know Omar (you) love him, the big teddy bear."
Manochio said he and his other friends particularly admired Monroig as a parent and said he was always there for his son and his wife. He said Monroig was generous and that his personality shined through and impressed everyone.
"When there was a gathering coming up, Omar would be the first one to volunteer to be the host of the gathering," he said. "In his bodybuilding career, he met numerous people and they all loved his personality and character. When he would go to the gym, the owner wouldn't even charge him to work out because they liked Omar so much."
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated where visiting hours will be held.